Marketing Tips

It’s been a tough year for farmers right across the Prairies. Rain, hail, and more rain have wreaked havoc on some crops. Lentils have been hammered. There’s no good durum available according to the chatter on Twitter. And it seems like every day or so, there’s some sort of precipitation event delaying harvest and likely causing crop quality to be even more questionable.

“The key to marketing grain and making sure you are getting the best price is to know the quality of what you have in the bin,” says Brennan Turner, president and CEO of FarmLead.com, North America’s Grain Marketplace. “If a grower doesn’t have this information, then he or she is behind the eight-ball from the start.”

Turner recommends using a service provider such as SGS, Intertek, or even the Canadian Grain Commission and getting both Canadian and U.S. testing completed. “You need more than protein and moisture content,” he says. “For malting barley you need germination and the full suite of testing there. For wheat, falling number is important and bleach on pulses is getting looked at because of harvest rains. Get as much information as you can.”

“Having that intimate understanding of the quality of your production is even more important in a year like this,” explains Turner. “If buyers are looking for specific quantities to fill or finish programs, these are opportunities you can take advantage of.”

Grades can vary by field and even by areas in the field. It is recommended that every field and every bin be identified with its own sample(s). If there are poorer areas in a field, or areas that appear to be different, if possible, combine, sample, and bin separately. The one constant you can count on with grain is variability – a robust sampling procedure will go a long way toward helping you understand the variability in your harvested grains.

The Canadian Grain Commission has a method for sampling grain and dividing samples on their website.  Check out their recommendations at the following link http://www.grainscanada.gc.ca/guides-guides/rs-er/trs-per-eng.htm.

“The second key to ensuring you get the best returns from your marketing efforts is to know your cash flow requirements,” he says. “Having this on hand means you can plan sales to ensure certain cash flow demands are met, such as paying bills or purchasing inputs for 2017.”

Turner advises a disciplined approach that should start with a sit-down with your banker and/or accountant. “This is the time to be honest with yourself,” Turner advises. “We all want a better price and can sometimes wait so long to pull the trigger we miss a good price. As a result, we can be forced into a less desirable sale just to alleviate a cash flow need. This is where discipline and a healthy dose of reality is called for.”  Turner also advises growers to be anticipating and making sales well in advance of needing the cash.

Turner’s final piece of advice for growers to maximize their marketing efforts this year – read, research, network, and read more. “There are plenty of resources out there, both unpaid and subscription-based,” he says. “Reading something like the free FarmLead Breakfast Brief every morning is a good way to get insight into what might be important for you to follow up on for your operation.”